British Airways Converts A Boeing 777 For Freight Use

This week, a British Airways Boeing 777 had flown to London from Cardiff with a stripped-back interior. All…

British Airways Converts A Boeing 777 For Freight Use

This week, a British Airways Boeing 777 had flown to London from Cardiff with a stripped-back interior. All of the seats had been removed as the flag carrier of the United Kingdom looks to increase its cargo services. The revamped plane will support efforts to deliver crucial medical equipment amid the global health pandemic.

British Airways is using its resources to help with shipping operations. Photo: British Airways

New look

A BA captain in training, with the username “jumpjim“, tweeted a photo of the aircraft’s interior today. He shared that the 777-200, with registration G-YMMK, had just returned from a maintenance facility in Cardiff with a new cargo configuration. He added that this process keeps aircraft utilization up while passenger activity is low. The cabin contrasts with its usual appearance without all the seats.

According to FlightAware, the aircraft left Cardiff International Airport at 13:46 on Friday. It performed a 40-minute trip east, arriving at London Heathrow at 14:26.

This jet has been with British Airways for 20 years. It arrived with the operator in December 2000. It has been used on various long-haul routes across the globe. Earlier this month, the plane was performing operations to New York JFK from London Heathrow. However, it was flown to Cardiff on May 12th, where it stayed for ten days while it underwent its transformation.

British Airways, Cargo Flights, China
BA has been busy despite the lack of passenger flights. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Shift in demand

According to Yahoo Finance, BA CEO Willie Walsh spoke of his firm’s shipping plans during a Q1 2020 earnings call on May 8th. He shared that there is need for cargo services during this period.

“Like other airlines, we will look at modifying a couple of our 777s. These are aircraft that will be reconfigured, and therefore, the seats will be coming out,” Walsh said, as reported by Yahoo Finance.

“So while they’re doing that, we’ll use those aircraft to carry cargo in the passenger cabin without the seats being installed. So we’re adapting where possible to fulfill the cargo demands that exist. And as I said, that’s quite robust at the moment.”

British Airways 777 fence
Most of British Airways’ aircraft remain on the ground amid the downturn in passenger activity. Photo: Getty Images

National efforts

Altogether, the carrier has been increasing the number of cargo flights it is operating to China. The UK has been grappling with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. Therefore, the country needs as much assistance as it can get as it continues to tackle the complications surrounding the pandemic.

While several European governments are starting to relax its travel restrictions, the UK is going in the other direction and will implement quarantine measures from June 8th. Therefore, BA could continue to be reliant on shipping services while passenger demand remains low amid all the rules in place.

Simple Flying reached out to British Airways for comment on its cargo operations but did not hear back before publication. We will update the article with any further announcements.

What are your thoughts about this Boeing 777 conversion? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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Retiring Aircraft Early Is Bad For Airlines – Here’s Why

The last few weeks have been full of news about aircraft retirements. That was the case for Virgin…

Retiring Aircraft Early Is Bad For Airlines – Here’s Why

The last few weeks have been full of news about aircraft retirements. That was the case for Virgin Atlantic 747’s, Air France’s A380’s, KLM’s 747’s, and Qantas B747’s. These were triggered by a fall in demand for air travel, which left many airlines financially vulnerable, forcing them to seek cost-cutting measures. Shrinking the sizes of their fleets and getting rid of inefficient aircraft is one of them. It turns out that airplane retirements are not only sad news for aviation enthusiasts, but have a profound impact on the value of airlines.

Lufthansa’s A340’s and A380’s are stored in Spain, with other carriers lined up next to them. Photo: Getty Images

Our hypothetical scenario

Imagine that five years ago, you purchased a brand new Mercedes for $100,000 for your daily commute to work. You expected to use it for the next ten years and then sell it on a used-car market. According to the car manufacturer, your Mercedes should be able to drive 100,000 kilometers throughout its lifetime. It turns out that in the first five years, you have driven by approximately 50,000 kilometers, so you assume that today your car is worth around half of what you bought it for. As the pandemic has spread, you realize that you no longer need your car because you work remotely. Thus you now wish to sell it. Unfortunately, it turns out that no one wants to buy your Mercedes, as everyone is now working from home.

Delta Air Lines 777
For Delta Air Lines, the A350 will carry on where the 777 is leaving off. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Additionally, you need to pay your mortgage and are in urgent need of cash and do not want to pay for the parking slot and the maintenance of this car. Thus, you decide to sell it to a scrap-yard for a mere $2,000, where the metal will be used to make cans. You have just lost $48,000.

This somewhat lengthy story illustrates the current headwinds faced by many airlines. Simply substitute “Mercedes” with a Boeing 747 and work from home with air travel demand. The critical difference is that airlines own not one airplane, but hundreds. Furthermore, their collective worth goes not into thousands, but billions. Even if the retirements are not “costing” the airlines any cash, they very much result is massive losses of value, a magnitude of which is striking.

Lufthansa, Long Haul, Grounded
Lufthansa has already decommissioned seven Airbus A380s. Photo: Getty Images

The magnitude of loss

  • In the first quarter, American Airlines prematurely retired several models of aircraft including the Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Airbus A330-300, and Embraer 190 aircraft, which resulted in a cumulative loss of $744 million. Additionally, retiring Embraer ERJ-140 and Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft brought a loss of $88 million. In a matter of weeks, American Airlines lost over $800 million just in the value of its fleet.
  • Air France-KLM’s lost over €45 million ($49.07 million) in the first quarter, due to an earlier phase-out of the A380’s and B747’s.
  • Delta Air Lines reportedly lost $22 million on an early phase-out of the MD88 fleet. The news about retiring Boeing 777’s and MD90’s came out later. Thus these losses will appear at the end of the current quarter.

The trend of premature retirements is likely to continue, and we are likely to witness more of these in the coming months.

KLM 747
KLM’s famous and beloves 747’s have been phased out initially, to come back days after to operate a few cargo flights. Image: KLM

The impact on the future fleets

The key trend of the retirements is about getting rid of the inefficient aircraft. Unfortunately, the industry might witness significant fleet unifications, with a handful of four-engine machines flying at its end. Yes, the transformation towards full twin-engine domination was already in place before the virus struck, but its pace has just significantly increased.

A380’s are the most likely “first-out” victims, due to their capacity. Filling them up to a profitable load factor will not happen anytime soon. A340’s and B747’s are next in line, because of their “four-engine” inefficiencies. Additionally, other older frames, the likes of B767’s or old A330’s are likely to lose out to newer B787’s and A350’s.

Survival of the fittest will not only occur among the airlines but also among the aircraft types, where the “fitness” is measured in liters per 100km.

What is your take on airlines retiring their fleets?  

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